House of Representatives Passes the Global Change Research and Data Management Act of 2007

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A legislative proposal repealing the US Global Change Research Act of 1990 and replacing it with a set of provisions that re-establishes an interagency Global Change Research Program passed the US House of Representatives on August 4 as part of an omnibus energy bill (see related post).  

The Global Change Research and Data Management Act of 2007 was originally introduced as a bipartisan measure by Reps. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Bob Inglis (R-SC) as HR 906, then amended and reported out of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on June 27, 2007.   Together with the Union of Concerned Scientists  Climate Science Watch expressed several concerns with the provisions in the bill in a letter to House Science Committee Chairman Barton Gordon (D-TN) and other key Members of the Committee (posted on our website on July 1).   However, passage into law of this groundbreaking energy proposal during this Congressional session is highly unlikely.

The legislative proposals of ten different House committees were joined together by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to create the omnibus energy bill, HR 3221 [PDF] , titled the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act of 2007 to reflect the Democratically controlled Congress’s intention to reorient our energy economy toward cleaner and more efficient energy technologies and approaches.   The provisions outlining the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) are just one small component of this bill, which is nearly 800 pages long and has nine major titles.  

The inclusion of the provisions in HR 906 in the omnibus energy package and the absence of similar provisions in a companion Senate energy bill means they are not guaranteed to survive a House-Senate conference agreement, and even if they did, the President has indicated he will veto the energy legislation.   While it is possible that HR 906 could be incorporated into another, less contentious legislative vehicle, we know of no current plans to do so.  

The Global Change Research and Data Management Act of 2007 (HR 906) as passed by the House Science Committee had three titles:    Title I – Global Change Research; Title II – Climate and Other Global Change Data Management; and Title III – International Cooperation in Global Change Research.    For reasons relating to overlapping jurisdiction with another House committee, Title III was dropped before the bill was folded into HR 3221 under Title IV, Subtitle G.

Very much a creature of the House Science Committee, the bill reflects an overall intention to make global change research more responsive to the needs of decision-makers and the information generated by scientists more available and user-friendly to the rest of society.   This theme is strongly reflected in several of the bill’s “findings” which state that the USGCRP “has not produced sufficient information to meet the expressed needs of decisionmakers” and that "improved understanding of global change should be used to assist decisionmakers in the development of policies to ensure that ecological, social, and economic systems are resilient under a variety of plausible climate futures.”

The bill as introduced was first modified on June 6 when it was considered and reported by the Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, which voted to accept an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Rep. Udall.    The changes made in Subcommittee were to designate the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as lead agency, assign it coordinating responsibilities and authorize appropriations for these; to add in “and assessment” after “research” in various places; to add provisions requiring interactions with local and State entities; to make slightly less onerous the reporting requirements, and to emphasize a need to consider regional climate change impacts.   The bill was considered and reported by the full Science Committee on June 27, after considering and adopting five amendments:   two separate groups of miscellaneous amendments offered by Rep. Udall, an amendment offered by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) making a set of changes to the   Policy Assessment provisions under Sec. 108; an amendment offered by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) requiring an “ice sheet study and report,” and an amendment offered by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) that requires a “hurricane frequency intensity study and report.”   

Part I of Subtitle G completely ignores the structure and terminology of the “Climate Change Science Program” which the Bush Administration superimposed over the programmatic framework of the USGCRP as it existed under Presidents Bush (the elder) and Clinton.   It completely repeals the Global Change Research Act of 1990 but re-establishes the USGCRP (Program) and requires a Global Change Research Plan in similar ways but with some notable differences compared with the existing law.   The requirement for a “vulnerability assessment” is the one that most closely resembles a revived National Assessment, with a first report from the President to the Congress due one year after enactment, and recurrent reports required every five years thereafter.   The President (presumably through the OSTP and the interagency committee established in the bill) is also to enter into a joint arrangement with the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Academy of Sciences, whereby the Academies are required to conduct a “policy assessment” that – among other things — documents and evaluates the effectiveness of Federal, State, and local policy options for mitigating or adapting to the effects of global and regional climate change.    Both the “ice sheet study and report” and the “hurricane frequency intensity study and report” are to be conducted by NOAA and NSF under an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences.    Part 2 of Subtitle G establishes an interagency data management working group that is to focus on global change data sets.   As mentioned earlier, the third component of HR 906 requiring the Secretary of State to engage in international discussions was dropped.

CSW has major concerns with this bill, as outlined in the joint letter with UCS.    While the letter was provided to the Committee too late in the process for them to take our comments into serious consideration, we believe the Committee should have been mindful of these concerns absent our input.   For example, the climate change science programs and the information they generate have been exposed to numerous instances of political censorship and tampering.    The Committee has even held hearings addressing this problem, and yet the bill does not acknowledge it in any direct way.   We are also concerned that the “vulnerability assessment” as outlined in the bill could too easily become too intermittent and report-driven, and could fail to be the ongoing deliberative process that it needs to be in order to achieve its full potential and to meet the stated goal of the Committee:   “to assist decisionmakers in the development of policies to ensure that ecological, social, and economic systems are resilient under a variety of plausible climate futures” and to ensure that the USGCRP’s research agenda and its implementation are “informed by continuous feedback from documented users of information generated by the Program.”    As the legislative process evolves, CSW intends to work closely with the Congress and the Executive Branch to improve the legislative foundation for the federal global change research programs.  

A more detailed summary of the provisions in Subtitle G appears below.

Title IV  
Subtitle G:   Global Change Research

SEC. 4601:   Title — ‘‘Global Change Research and Data Management Act of 2007’’.

Part 1 – Global Change Research

SEC. 4611:   Findings and Purpose

SEC. 4612:   Definitions

SEC. 4613:   Interagency Cooperation and Coordination

Directs the President to “establish or designate” an interagency committee to “ensure cooperation and coordination of al Federal research activities pertaining to processes of global change”   and will include representatives of agencies conducted global change research as well as agencies with authority over resources likely to be affected by global change.   It is to serve as the forum for developing the “Plan” described in Sec 4615 and the “Vulnerability Assessment” outlined in Sec. 4617.   It is to work with academic, State, industry, and other groups conducting global change research to   provide for periodic public and peer review of the “Program” established in Sec. 4614.   It is to facilitate ongoing dialog and information exchange with regional, State, and local governments and work with them to ensure the Program is designed to produce information needed to develop policies to reduce vulnerability to global change.   It is also to cooperate with the Secretary of State in providing representation in international meetings and coordinating our programs with those of the international community.

SEC. 4614:      United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)

Directs the President to establish an interagency United States Global Change Research Program  “to improve understanding of global change; to respond to the information needs of communities and decisionmakers; and to provide periodic assessments of the vulnerability of the United States and other regions to global and regional climate change.”

Designates OSTP as lead agency for the USGCRP.  

Requires the OSTP in coordination with the interagency committee to “identify activities included in the Plan that involve participation by 2 or more agencies in the Program, and that do not fall within the current fiscal year budget allocations of those participating agencies, to fulfill the requirements of this subtitle.”   Requires the OSTP Director to allocate funds to the agencies to conduct activities identified.

Directs the OSTP Director to hold at least one workshop per year in every region identified by the Plan “to facilitate information exchange and outreach to regional, State, and local stakeholders.”

Authorizes appropriations to OSTP for $10 million for FY 2008 – 2013.

SEC. 4615:    The “Plan”

Directs the President to develop a National Global Change Research and Assessment Plan

Reporting Requirements:  

The President shall submit an outline for the development of the Plan to the Congress within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the President shall submit a completed Plan to the Congress within 3 years, and the President shall submit a revised Plan to the Congress at least once every 5 years thereafter.

The President is directed to “conduct a formal assessment process to determine the needs of appropriate Federal, State, regional, and local authorities and other interested parties regarding the types of information needed by them in developing policies to reduce society’s vulnerability to global change.”

The Plan is to include (partial list):   goals and priorities for the coming 10 years and a description of specific activities to achieve them; a description of federal activities that contribute to the Program and the role of each federal agency in implementing the Plan;

recommendations for coordinating with other nations and international organizations; detailed budget requirements; a catalog of information identified by decisionmakers at the state and local level for developing policies to reduce society’s vulnerability to global change; an identification of existing observing systems as well as those needed for ensuring adequate data collection and monitoring of global change; outreach activities; identification of US regions likely to experience similar impacts or share similar vulnerabilities to global change. The Plan is to include a host of research elements, such as global measurements and observations; economic, demographic, and technological trends; indicators and baseline databases to document global change (e.g. changes in sea level); historical changes in the Earth system; assessments of predictability using quantitative models; interactions among physical, chemical, biological, land use, and social processes; and the needs of decisionmakers.

The Plan is to be reviewed and evaluated by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Governor’s Association.    The President is directed to seek public participation in the development of the Plan by consulting with various groups and by publishing a draft Plan in the Federal Register with a 60-day minimum public comment period.

SEC. 4616:   Budget Coordination

In the annual budget request to Congress, the President is to submit a description of those items in each agency’s annual budget which are elements of the Program.

4617:   Vulnerability Assessment

The assessment is to “integrate, evaluate, and interpret the findings of the Program” and discuss the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings; to analyze current trends in global change; to analyze changes to the natural environment in major geographic regions of the US and other continents; to analyze the effects of global change on food and fiber production, energy production and use, transportation, human health and welfare, water availability and coastal infrastructure, and human social and economic systems; to summarize the vulnerability of different geographic regions of the world to global change and analyze the implications of global change for the US (including international assistance, population displacement, food and resource availability, and national security.)

Reporting Requirements:

The President shall submit to the Congress within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, and at least once every 5 years thereafter, a vulnerability assessment.

SEC. 4618:   Policy Assessment

Reporting Requirements:

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, and at least once every 4 years thereafter, the President shall enter into a joint agreement with the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Academy of Sciences under which the Academies shall:

document current policy options being implemented by Federal, State, and local governments to mitigate or adapt to the effects of global and regional climate change;  evaluate the realized and anticipated effectiveness of those current policy options in meeting mitigation and adaptation goals; identify and evaluate a range of additional policy options and infrastructure for mitigating or adapting to the effects of global and regional climate change; analyze the adoption rates of policies and technologies available to reduce the vulnerability of society to global change with an evaluation of the market and policy obstacles to their adoption in the United States; and evaluate the distribution of economic costs and benefits of these policy options across different United States economic sectors.

SEC. 4619:   Annual Report

Reporting Requirement:

Each year at the time of submission to the Congress of the President’s budget request, the President shall submit to the Congress a report on the activities conducted pursuant to this part, including:  

a description of the activities of the Program during the past fiscal year and those planned in the next fiscal year toward achieving the goals of the Plan; a description of the groups or categories of State, local, and regional decisionmakers identified as potential users of the information; and a description of the activities used to facilitate consultations with and outreach to these groups.

SEC. 4620:    Relation to Other Authorities

SEC. 4621:   Repeals the Global Change Research Act of 1990

SEC. 4622:   Global Change Research Information

Directs the President to establish or designate a Global Change Research Information Exchange to make information generated by the Program (which would be useful in preventing, mitigating, or adapting to the effects of global change) accessible through electronic means.

4623:   Ice Sheet Study

NSF and NOAA are to “enter into an arrangement” with the National Academy of Sciences “to complete a study of the current status of ice sheet melt, as caused by climate change, with implications for global sea level rise.”

Reporting Requirement:   

Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Academy shall transmit to the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation a report on the key findings of the study along with recommendations for additional research.

SEC. 4624:     Hurricane Frequency and Intensity Study and Report

NSF and NOAA are to “enter into an arrangement” with the National Academy of Sciences to complete a study of the current state of the science on the potential impacts of climate change on patterns of hurricane and typhoon development, including storm intensity, track, and frequency, and the implications for hurricane-prone and typhoon-prone coastal regions.

Reporting Requirement:   

Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Academy shall transmit to the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation a report on the key findings of the study along with recommendations for additional research

Part 2 —   Climate and Other Global Change Data Management

SEC. 4631:     Findings

SEC. 4632:     Definitions   (defines ‘metadata’)

SEC 4633:    Interagency Working Group

Establishes an interagency data management working group, the members of which are to include the heads of NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOD, NSF, USGS, EPA, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian.

Reporting Requirement:

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the working group shall transmit a report to the Congress containing the elements described in subsection (d). Not later than 4 years after the initial report under this subsection, and at least once every 4 years thereafter, the working group shall transmit reports updating the previous report.  

The reports are to include recommendations for the establishment, maintenance, and accessibility of a catalog identifying all available climate and other global change data sets; identify climate and other global change data collections in danger of being lost and recommend actions to prevent such loss; identify gaps in climate and other global change data and recommend actions to fill those gaps;  identify effective and compatible procedures for climate and other global change data collection, management, and retention and make recommendations for ensuring their use by Federal agencies and other appropriate entities; develop and propose a coordinated strategy for funding and allocating responsibilities among Federal agencies for climate and other global change data collection, management, and retention;   make recommendations for ensuring that particular attention is paid to the collection, management, and archiving of metadata;  make recommendations for ensuring a unified and coordinated Federal capital investment strategy with respect to climate and other global change data collection, management, and archiving; evaluate the data record from each observing system and make recommendations to ensure that delivered data are free from time-dependent biases and random errors before they are transferred to long-term archives; and evaluate optimal design of observation system components to ensure a cost-effective, adequate set of observations detecting and tracking global change.

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